A Quantitative Framework to Study Potential Benefits and Harms of Multi-Cancer Early Detection Testing

Boshen Jiao, Roman Gulati, Hormuzd A. Katki, Philip E. Castle, Ruth Etzioni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Multi-cancer tests offer screening for multiple cancers with one blood draw, but the potential population impact is poorly understood. Methods: We formulate mathematical expressions for expected numbers of: (i) individuals exposed to unnecessary confirmation tests (EUC), (ii) cancers detected (CD), and (iii) lives saved (LS) given test performance, disease incidence and mortality, and mortality reduction.Weadd colorectal, liver, lung, ovary, and pancreatic cancer to a test for breast cancer, approximating prevalence at ages 50, 60, or 70 using incidence over the next 5 years and mortality using corresponding probabilities of cancer death over 15 years in the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results registry. Results: EUC is overwhelmingly determined by specificity. For a given specificity, EUC=CD is most favorable for higher prevalence cancers. Under 99% specificity and sensitivities as published for a 50-cancer test, EUC=CD is 1.1 for breast lung versus 1.3 for breast liver at age 50. Under a common mortality reduction associated with screening, EUC=LS is most favorable when the test includes higher mortality cancers (e.g., 19.9 for breast lung vs. 30.4 for breast liver at age 50 assuming a common 10% mortality reduction). Conclusions: Published multi-cancer test performance suggests a favorable tradeoff ofEUCto CD, yet the full burden of unnecessary confirmations will depend on the posttest work-up protocol. Harm- benefit tradeoffs will be improved if tests prioritize more prevalent and/or lethal cancers for which curative treatments exist.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-44
Number of pages7
JournalCancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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